A streak of tornadoes in the past few days left so far at least 7 people dead and over 30 others injured in the states of Georgia and Alabama, where a hurricane damaged buildings and tossed cars into the streets of downtown Selma, where civil rights activists once made history.
Six of the fatalities were reported in Autauga County, Alabama, 66 kilometers northeast of Selma, where some 40 homes were torn apart by a tornado that ripped a 20-mile path through two rural communities.
In Georgia, a passenger was killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in Jackson, Butts County Coroner Lacey Prue said. In the same county southeast of Atlanta, the storm appeared to have derailed a freight train, officials said.
Authorities in Griffin, south of Atlanta, decreed a curfew from 10 pm Thursday until 6 am Friday.
There were 33 separate tornadoes reported nationwide in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and North Carolina, although not all warnings were later confirmed to be of such a magnitude and were downgraded to damaging winds. The National Weather Service said suspected tornado damage was reported in at least 14 counties in Alabama and five in Georgia.
In Selma, brick buildings collapsed, oak trees were uprooted, cars were knocked sideways and power lines were left dangling as columns of thick, black smoke rose over the city from a fire. Mayor James Perkins said no deaths had been reported, but several people were seriously injured. Selma, a city of about 18,000, is about 50 miles west of Montgomery, Alabama's capital. It was a flashpoint of the civil rights movement and where Alabama state police brutally attacked black voting rights advocates as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.
According to PowerOutage.us, nearly 40,000 households were powerless in Alabama and another 86,000 in Georgia since late Thursday. In Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed that an EF-1 tornado struck Mercer County and said crews were surveying damage in a handful of other counties.
Alabama Governor Ivey Kay declared a state of emergency for six counties, including Autauga, following the storms. We have already seen parts of the state rattled by this severe weather system, which is why I have issued a state of emergency, she said on social media. Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency for Georgia later the same afternoon.
Rescuers canvassed downtown Selma Friday in search of survivors after the city council met on a sidewalk using lights from cellphones to declare a state of emergency with many power lines downed according to Perkins.
According to Northern Illinois University Meteorology Professor Victor Gensini, a natural La Niña weather cycle, combined with the warming of the Gulf of Mexico, and an eastward shift of tornado activity, for such a devastating outcome.